Peter Hedges, the screenwriter of “About a Boy” and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” makes his directorial debut with the film “Pieces of April,” for which he also penned the script.

The film centers on April Burns – a twentysomething bohemian who has decided to have the family she has cut herself off from, including her cancer-stricken mother, over for Thanksgiving dinner at her teeny apartment. Katie Holmes is almost unrecognizable as the hair dyed and tattoo-adorned rebellious title character – I don’t think Dawson would have liked this look too much.

The movie begins with April being reluctantly dragged out of bed on Turkey Day by her wonderfully supportive boyfriend, played by the very attractive Derek Luke, to fix the turkey. Though the preparation of the turkey drew many laughs from the audience – dropping it on the ground, sticking an entire onion in the turkey – it made me a little sad to think that is probably very similar to the way I would prepare a turkey. After all, I actually messed up while making Jell-O once. Enough about my cooking talents, though.

So then April’s cute boyfriend goes on some mysterious errand, leaving April to discover that her stove – which she usually uses as a shoe storage space – does not work.

April, now in pursuit of a stove, is led on a series of wacky and wild mishaps that are just good old fashioned cinematic entertainment.

Meanwhile, we are also watching April’s family embark on a hilarious yet quite poignant road trip as they prepare to see their estranged eldest daughter. Patricia Clarkson – of “Six Feet Under” fame – is cast in one of the best roles of her career as a woman coping with her quickly approaching mortality.

She makes you laugh when, after smoking up, she tries to explain to her senile mother why Smack Daddy is the best musician ever, and she makes you cry when she pleads to her husband that her last memory of April cannot be a bad one.

April’s desperate-to-be-perfect sister, Beth, is played perfectly by Alison Pill and her off-beat and very funny brother, Timmy, is played by John Gallagher Jr. – who looks so much like my friend Russel that when he said something funny I actually said “Oh Russel!” out loud. That made people look at me so I stopped. Both characters add a great dynamic to this dysfunctional family. Oliver Platt plays the sweet patriarch who constantly trys to make the situation look positive.

There is also, as I mentioned before, a senile grandmother who takes on the role of the comic relief because, as we all know from previous films, old people are funny.

The best scene with the family is when they are in the car in the parking lot of a Krispy Kreme, and for a good two minutes all you hear are the family’s orgasmic reactions to the wonder that is a Krispy Kreme doughnut.

This film is really about how, under many layers of resentment and hate, people do truly need each other and they especially realize this on holidays.

April proclaims herself to be the bad pancake of the family – which apparently is the one you are supposed to throw out. There are definitely underlying culinary themes in this film.

She realizes as she is teaching a newly immigrated Japanese family about Thanksgiving – it is a long story that has to do with the turkey – that like the Indians and the Pilgrims needed each other so long ago, she and her family need each other.

With a hilarious cameo from Sean Hayes – Jack from “Will and Grace” – and a bunch of other neighbors who are played by not-as-famous people – after all, it is an independent film – it keeps you entertained throughout.

At times you don’t know whether to laugh or cry. In the beginning you think you may be nauseated because of the handheld-camera filming style. However, the story is so enticing that all feelings of nausea quickly disappear.

Lepore can be reached at

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